With its latest brand addition, Celebrate Brands just got one step closer to creating a better-for-you snacking empire.
The Houston-based company announced last week its January acquisition of fellow Houston-based snack maker Green Plate Kitchen, formerly known as Green Plate Foods. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. As part of the acquisition, Lisa Pounds, Green Plate Founder and CEO, will assume the new role of CEO of Celebrate Brands.
Founded in 2017, Celebrate has quickly grown encompass a portfolio of seven better-for-you snack brands since its founders, Mark Martin, Roger Janik and Aman Dhuka, acquired their first food business, beefjerky.com, in 2016.
“We were attracted to Green Plate Foods because of their fantastic brand, great products and their relationships,” Martin, managing partner of Celebrate Brands, said. “Lisa is a dynamic and innovative leader in the healthy snack space and she will be essential in helping us grow our portfolio of better-for-you products.”
Pounds started Green Plate in 2010 as a catering company specializing in healthy meals for kids. Shortly after, the company shifted to packaged snacks, creating cookies and fruit-bites and rebranded. At its height, Pounds grew Green Plate’s national retail presence to about 500 stores, including retailers like HEB, Kroger and Whole Foods Market, in addition to its food service distribution. Over half of the brand’s current revenue comes from foodservice accounts like schools and hospitals, according to Pounds.
Now under the Celebrate umbrella, Pounds said she hopes to see the brand expand its retail and online presence. She also believes the ability to collaborate with fellow, acquired portfolio brands — Domata Gluten Free Flour, Avani Snacks, BeefJerky.com, Dixie Diners Club, Popcorn Passion and DK Organics — will help accelerate the brand’s innovation pipeline.
There certainly is a strength in numbers in the CPG world, Pounds said. By banding together, smaller brands are able to achieve operational efficiencies and scale faster, allowing them to be more competitive. This has been seen in recent deals like Harbor Sweet’s acquisition of hot chocolate maker Cocoa Sante, and vegetable and meat bar brand Wild Zora’s acquisition of Paleo Meals to Go.
“This is a very challenging business for small manufacturers,” Pounds said. “Joining forces with Celebrate Brands allows us to have shared overhead and shared synergies on the company side and shared relationships and resources with our other brands.”
Some synergies are more obvious. Before the end of this year Green Plate will incorporate the gluten-free flour produced by fellow portfolio brand Domata into its current products. The companies also have several co-branded gluten free baking mixes in the pipeline.
Pounds’ goals for the business don’t stop with Green Plate. As CEO, Pounds said her team will review branding, sourcing and production for each of the company’s seven portfolio brands to improve collaboration across the board.
“It’s really about getting a good handle of our operations,” she said. “We will be really focusing internally and rebrand where needed, [but] we are excited to continue listening to our buyers and consumers about what they want.”
The company is also hoping that its cross-collaboration can boost its distribution presence across channels. Under Pounds new leadership, for example, the company hopes to expand its relationship with production bakeries that currently use some Celebrate products, but not all.
In terms of future acquisitions, Celebrate Brands is slowing down, according to Martin.
“The acquisition brakes are on for now, but only long enough to integrate the current companies and deploy our cross-selling and go-to-market strategies,” he said. “We focus on niche and better-for-you products that we can stand behind. We see plenty of runway to expand in the gluten free space and other healthy food channels.”